The Art of the Marché de Noël en Provence
As November lists towards the holiday season, Provence begins to unfurl the tinsel and bright nods to Noël are building. Christmas in Provence has many traditions to observe during the three full days of it – from the cacho-fio to the 13 desserts and beyond. The real magic, however, lies within the build-up, and there’s no better place to find inspiration than at the numerous marchés de Noël, which spice each weekend and every village in our belle région.
Marché de Noël Provence
Like most, there will be Christmas markets galore this year, and you will find them dotted all around, offering familiar crafts, foods and objets d’art. Vin chaud becomes our beverage of choice somehow, despite the odds. Little clay figures of village allegorical characters (santons) take on such splendour that we must have them in our homes after we marvel at the nativity setups in every church and hotel de ville we pass. Merchants share their chocolat chaud and pain d’épices and wrap our purchases with extra decorative ribbons, whether they are gifts or not. There is something so undeniably charming about les marchés de Noël, even the tiny ones in unfamous villages, so I would encourage visiting any that you happen to find.
Horses and Cars for the Holidays
Also, be on the lookout for events at local écuries and farms which offer an exciting treat for children (of all ages) who love animals. Living crèche presentations, calèche rides and vrai local arts and crafts during open days at riding centres such as Cavaliers Du Ranch Hidalgo (December 9th) and Pas Du Loup (December 2nd) provide family entertainment. Coquillade Provence presents Saint-Nicolas on December 2nd with an event so tempting adults may search for a child to bring along. Vintage car lovers want to check out the Parade de Voitures Vintage Illuminee in Vaison La Romaine on December 16th. All the information is on their Facebook profile here.
Holiday Events and Highlights
For now, here are a few of the ones already noted in the calendar for December 2023.
From mid-November through the end of the year, Aix en Provence has ongoing markets and happenings on the famous Cour Mirabeau. The lights, the processions and the presentations will not disappoint those seeking holiday inspiration. You will find more information here.
In Avignon, there are a few different Christmas markets to be found, as well as many animations throughout the city this holiday season. An excellent place to start would be La Fabrique de Noel in the Cloître Carme. Famous for the parades (déambulations), musical events, and shopping, La Fabrique de Noël is held on the weekends from December 1st to December 8th. A programme of events is available on their website.
For the most truly elegant of Christmas markets, a visit to Ménerbes is one of the top picks. The village holds its Fête de Noël on the weekend of December 10th, and La Maison Dora Maar is the site of the third annual Faire Press Marché de Noël sponsored by Maison Victoire on December 8th-10th. More than 25 participating artisans and artists will present their arts and crafts, homewares, and an excellent terroir section of wine, champagne, and food gifts here. With its sumptuous location and specially curated list of creators, this is one of the most beautiful marchés in Provence, where you might complete your gift list shopping – and find wonders for yourself.
Art of the Marché de Noël
The marchés offer a delightful way to find unique gifts for the season without propping up the online world. One supports the local economy while finding unique and thoughtful offerings. Is it all about shopping, though? I think not! It is the lights, music, the scents and the glow of nostalgia. Personally, I can’t wait to gather up my family and friends to drag them around every Provençal marché de Noël I can find this year. I wish everyone the best holiday season in 2023!
Maryna Fontenoy is an American in Provence via London. She is a private hairdresser, colour specialist, and occasional writer. Since 2004, Maryna has owned and operated The Beaucatcher Salon in London and Balayalchemy in Avignon since 2020. She has lived full-time in a village outside of Avignon since 2011 and still works monthly in the salon in London. Maryna is hugely devoted to life in Provence and enjoys writing about the region.
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